Johns Hopkins students stage 'die-in' protests in wake of police killings

Hundreds take part in peaceful demonstrations on university's Homewood, East Baltimore campuses

Hundreds of students at Johns Hopkins University's Homewood and East Baltimore campuses participated in staged "die-ins" this week, joining a nationwide protest movement in the wake of the high-profile deaths of two unarmed black men—Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City—at the hands of police.

On Tuesday night, a large group made up mostly of undergraduate students (organizers estimated about 120 people participated) staged a peaceful demonstration at the Brody Learning Commons, lying on the floor on the library's B and Q levels as visitors stepped over them. The protest lasted 45 minutes, representing the four and a half hours that Brown's body remained on a Ferguson street after he was fatally shot by a white police officer.

"Am I Next?" read a sign held by one student. "Don't Kill My Brothers," read another. The event was organized by JHU's Black Student Union.

"I think it was important for us to have this protest to show that we care deeply about these issues and to show our solidarity with the growing national movement, especially at a place like Hopkins which often feels very isolated," BSU President Phil Montgomery, a member of the Class of 2015, wrote in an email to the Hub. "While the anti-police brutality movement continues to grow, many people refuse to acknowledge the unjust treatment of people of color by the police, and others only see these high-profile cases as isolated incidents. We wanted to show that police brutality is not an issue just in Ferguson or New York. It is an issue of national importance and is relevant to the Hopkins community and Baltimore since we know of many incidents of police harassing, brutalizing, or killing people of color in this city."

Added Tiffany Onyejiaka, a member of the BSU and the Class of 2017:"The BSU hosted this event in light of the ever-increasing deaths of minorities due to police brutality. We wanted to show the Hopkins community that these events are human tragedies and that all members of society, regardless of race, must join to reform the system and prevent more innocent lives from being taken for unjustifiable reasons."

Also see: Students protest police brutality, racism in BLC die-in (JHU Newsletter)

Montgomery said the BSU doesn't have any plans for future protests at this time—in part because students are taking final exams and will soon be away for the holidays—but he does expect some BSU members to attend a march in Washington, D.C., on Saturday led by Rev. Al Sharpton. Thousands are expected to participate, including members of the Brown and Garner families.

On Wednesday afternoon, about 150 students at the Johns Hopkins school of Medicine joined participants from an estimated 70 medical schools across the country in staging a similar "die-in," an effort united under the #whitecoats4blacklives hashtag.

More, from The Baltimore Sun:

Wearing white lab coats, the students lined up outside the Anne and Mike Armstrong Medical Education Building in the 1600 block of McElderry St. in East Baltimore at noon and shouted "If I can't breathe, you can't breathe." Following a short speech by an event organizer, the students laid out on the sidewalk surrounding the medical school for four-and-a-half silent minutes, representing in minutes the hours it took for St. Louis area medical examiners to retrieve the body of 18-year-old Michael Brown from a street in Ferguson, Mo., after he was fatally shot by police in August.

"This is a health problem," said event organizer and doctor Manisha Sharma, saying police need to be held more accountable for unnecessary killings and excessive uses of force in the same way doctors are held accountable for malpractice.